The growing popularity of Calle 24’s riveting corridos number “Qué Onda” with Chino Pacas and Fuerza Regida caught him by surprise — particularly because he didn’t initially intend for it to be his own track.

Born Diego Millán, he recalls that he wrote the foundation of the song for another group (who he declines to disclose), but when it ultimately didn’t work out for the band, he decided to keep the song for himself. He then showed the song to Fuerza Regida frontman Jesús Ortiz Paz (better known as JOP), and the two immediately decided to grow it even further with the addition of singer Chino Pacas.

The track’s horn-blaring, upbeat feel narrates a rendezvous both passionate and filled with debauchery, which has quickly resonated with listeners. Following its release on Aug. 30, “Qué Onda” has quickly become Calle 24’s biggest hit to date: it debuted at No. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100 dated Sept. 16, marking his first entry on the chart, and has reached a No. 8 high on Hot Latin Songs.

At just 20 years old, the Chihuahua, Mexico-born musician is signed to Street Mob Records — JOP’s record label (which recently inked a deal with Cinq Music) — and is now performing as a solo act, after Calle 24 first formed as a group of four. “The name stayed with me, but my friendship and camaraderie with the others continues,” he says. He’s also quickly becoming an extremely sought-after songwriter within the booming regional Mexican music scene, with credits on Fuerza Regida’s “Sabor Fresa” and “Igualito a Mi Apá,” featuring Peso Pluma. He’s involved in the San Bernardino band’s upcoming work as well.

Below, Calle 24 tells Billboard about the success of “Qué Onda,” working as a solo artist, his relationship with JOP and more.

What’s your reaction to your first Hot 100 hit?

I’m very excited. I didn’t think this was going to happen to me, but thank God it did. I hope it’s not the [last] time.

How did the song come together?

[Another group] asked me to do the song. Me and my [writing] partner Miguel Armenta, who is also a co-writer for “Bebe Dame,” started working on the song about a month or so ago in California, and midway through it, we said, “It’s coming along very well.” That same day we recorded it, and it was something very impressive. Now that regional Mexican music is expanding, you know when songs are on another level — we thought this could go worldwide because of the lyrics, the rhythm, all of that.

So, the other project didn’t happen, and I was like, “Well, I’m going to take my song,” because I wrote it. [JOP] told me we should do it together, so we uploaded a Reel to Instagram, promoting the song. That day, we added the voices, and we did not imagine [the results]. That night it accumulated several million [streams]. It was something crazy.

Tell me about the other people that worked on the song.

Cristian Humberto, and Jonathan Caro, who is a co-writer on “Sabor Fresa.” JOP also participated a little bit in the lyrics. We are a team. We’d rather work together: they say that more heads think better than one, so we set out to do that. That’s how we come out with more quality work. We are like a family, really. It’s better when people get along well because things come out much better with more enthusiasm.

How did Calle 24 form?

I am now a solo artist. We used to be a group, but it disintegrated because I believe that my colleagues had their own visions and work plans — and it is understood. Calle 24 started here in Cuauhtémoc, where I live in Chihuahua, with me, Ezequiel Rodriguez, Santiago Castillo and Angel Rivera. When I started four years ago, I was a solo artist like now. But they knew how to record at home, and I was impressed because I had gone to record in a studio and my song sounded worse than theirs. I was one of the first ones who approached them, and we started working together. The name stayed with me [now that I’m a solo artist]. I am Calle 24. But my friendship and camaraderie with the others continues.

How did you meet JOP?

Me and Ezequiel were in Chihuahua, and [JOP] was looking for underground artists from California or Texas. He contacted a colleague called Güero X to do a song and we began talking. We didn’t know that Güero X had just signed with JOP, [but] we did the song we were going to release, and out of the blue Güero X said, “I just signed with Street Mob and Jesús wants to connect with you”. So I sent him a load of songs, and after a week, he said, “Sign them!” I was over the moon. That was in July 2020. Imagine, I was 17 years old at the time. It was this great opportunity. In January 2021, I wrote [Fuerza Regida’s] “¿Qué Está Pasando?”

Since 2021, you’ve done extremely well on streaming platforms.

The truth is that it has been very nice. It’s difficult, but little by little, people are accepting more of what we do. Since the first song we released, which was “¿Qué Está Pasando”, the reception has been very good and we try to improve every day. It has been an incredible process.

Did you always think you would do corridos or regional Mexican music?

Never. In my childhood, I never listened to corridos. My mom was more into country and pop, so I listened more to Luis Fonsi, Caballo Dorado, things like that. One day, when I was about 8 years old, a friend came and told me, “Check out this song,” and it was a corrido. I got that little itch for that music, and from then, I never let it go. I made my first song when I was 11 years old with the help of my parents. To this day, they still support me — that’s what motivated me the most. When I was 13, they bought me my first guitar on my birthday. I knew it was going to be something. The truth is that I always had that hunch. You have to believe in yourself. Now I see that it was not in vain.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Sept. 23, 2023, issue of Billboard.

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